Yes, I care about the Olympics

It’s happened.

It took less than a week, and now I’m sucked in like the rest of the country.

I wrote on my blog about a week ago about how I couldn’t care less about the Olympics. I don’t like that Beijing got to host the Summer Games and to me, there will never be another 1980 U.S. hockey team moment because the athletes in the big-time events are all money-raking professionals. 

Mostly, though, it was probably China. The haze. The human rights violations. The closed society. Even the swapping of 7-year-old singers at the Opening Ceremonies ticked me off. (Although, when you think about it, that’s a totally American thing to do. Does C&C Music Factory ring a bell?)

But then Michael Phelps dove into the pool, and it was all over.

Count me in, it turns out. All the way in. 

Heck, I even had to turn in my Man Card early Friday morning as I literally sat on the edge of my couch to watch the women’s gymnastics all-around competition. And yeah, I’ll admit it. At 12:51 a.m., I pumped my fist when Nastia Liukin nailed her floor routine to clinch the gold.

Take that, China.

Still, I’m trying to figure out why and how this happened.

Did NBC get to me?

Let’s face it, when it comes to television coverage of an Olympic Games, NBC ends the day standing on the podium with its right hand over its heart and singing Francis Scott Key’s finest. They’ve got this thing down.

But in the past, the NBC overproduction of the Games actually hindered my enjoyment.

But has anybody noticed that NBC and the family of networks carrying the Olympics this year have actually toned things down? The schmaltzy tear-jerking features about the athlete overcoming her terrible fall from Mount Everest where she survived only by carrying her legless sherpa on her back so he could lead her back to safety are virtually nonexistent. And when they are used, they’re dramatically shorter this time around.

We’ve known for a long time that Olympic coverage has been geared towards the female demographic. But it seems the networks have learned that the performances will tell the story of these Games, and have gotten the heck out of the way. Thank you.

Did NBC figure this out all on its own?

Truthfully, I don’t think so. I just don’t think there’s ample time for the sappy features. With the time difference, there’s just too much big stuff going on live after 10 p.m. EDT to fit anything but the sports in. And that is perfectly fine with me. Like a president who gets credit for a good economy, NBC can take the ratings hike and ride on into glory. Fine with me. Now we can hope they think this is the way things should be done and make it a habit for future Games.

It’s about US vs. Them again, isn’t it?

When we look back fondly on past Olympiads, we think about the bitter rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviets and the East Germans. It was all about a medal race back in the day.

Well, thanks to China, that’s back.

The Chinese have taken a lot of static for hosting these Games, and much of it is well-deserved. They’ve also openly demonstrated that they want to bury the U.S. in the medal count this time around, and in the gold column, they’re doing it.

So now it’s on. Oh, it’s so on.

And us Americans like that. At least I do.

What about the Redeem Team?

I’m still torn on this one. I’m a blatant American homer during the Olympics, but this Coach K leading Team USA back to hardwood glory thing is still tough for a Carolina grad to chew on.

That said, this is our game, and daggone it, we should be the best at it.

So there.

Be honest, it’s about the Michael Phelps Show, isn’t it?

Oh yeah.

His performance in these Games — and his Olympic career, for that matter — can’t be described by mere words. There has never been dominance on an international scale like this. Phelps not only breaks world records — many of them his own — he obliterates them. This is breaking the 4-minute mile type of stuff, and he’s doing it every time out. 

In winning his first six gold medals, two of them relays, a world record was set. Think about that.

It just doesn’t get any better than that. And when you’re a night owl like me, and the whole sporting day is geared up toward when Phelps is going for another gold, and then 2 minutes later, he’s destroyed the world’s best again, well, it’s like having six Kentucky Derbies in the span of six days.

And the best part? He’s ours.

And I think that’s where I got caught up in this thing. No matter what happens in the last week of the Summer Games — and heck, we still have track and field lined up just around the corner — these Olympics will forever be remembered as Phelps’ Games.

He is proving to be the best Olympic athlete ever, possibly the most decorated athlete on the world stage in the history of sport. 

And he wears the red, white and blue.

What’s not to like about that?

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Filed under Designated Hitter, Michael Phelps, Olympics, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

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